Arabian Gulf League winner, Sharjah’s Abdulazi Al Anbari (centre), poses with the Leader Award for the Best Coach of the season.
Under the sponsorship and presence of Sheikh Mansoor Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and in the attendance of Marwan Bin Ghalita, President of the UAE Football Association and Abdulla Naser Al Junaibi, Chairman of the UAE Pro League, the PLC held on Friday night the 2018-19 Arabian Gulf League Awards Ceremony at Al Johara Ballroom in Jumeirah Mina A’Salam hotel.
A video carrying a message from the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan on tolerance was displayed on screen to mark the UAE’s celebration of the Year of Tolerance in 2019.
Following the video message, PLC Chairman Al Junaibi started the ceremony with a speech in which he welcomed the attendees and hailed the support UAE sport receives from the country’s wise leadership and its impact in the constant growth of the PLC. The Chairman vowed to continue the efforts of development and constant improvements, in the light of the UAE leaders’ persistent pursuit of excellence.
A band of ‘shadow dancers’ delivered a show telling the tale of a footballer from birth to victory.
Up next was the handing of the awards. Al Wasl starlet Ali Saleh picked up the first award of the night, after being named the 2018-19 Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank Golden Boy; the Best Young Player in the Arabian Gulf League.
Al Jazira playmaker Khalfan Mubarak received the Golden Ball Award for Best Emirati Player, while Sharjah’s Brazilian midfielder Igor Coronado was named winner of the Golden Ball for Best Foreign Player.
Arabian Gulf League winner Abdulazi Al Anbari collected the Leader Award for the Best Coach of the season, while the side’s goalkeeper Adel Al Hosani was the Golden Glove winner. Dibba midfielder Driss Fettouhi was honoured as the 2018-19 Fans’ Player of the Year.
Club awards followed with Al Wasl winning the Club Licensing Award, while Al Ain beat competition from Al Wahda and Ajman to win the Online Content Award.
Two award categories made their debut on Saturday; Bani Yas’ Michael Ortega received the inaugural Goal of the Year award, while ‘Sport for All’ and ‘UAE Soccer’ shared the first-ever Best Digital Sport Platform award. Sharjah FC fans were named Fans’ of the season.
The ceremony also featured the unveiling of the new Arabian Gulf League shield; a work of art that took over 1480 hours of precision and craft to produce. Sharjah will be the maiden recipients of the new shield after Al Ain had permanently retained the previous shield after winning their fourth Arabian Gulf League title in 2017-18. Speaking on the occasion, Sharjah’s winning coach Anbari said, “You see our goalkeeper is the best, midfielder the best, everything.” “For me, this vote is very important. The secret to [becoming champions] was teamwork. We said to the players if we want to fight with the strong teams, we must be together, like a family, like a team. You cannot work as individual players.
“We started the camp like a team, started the league like a team and we finished like one. We worked hard for teamwork. It’s not easy to fight with strong teams who had more experience than us. But we worked together and it’s important the players listened to the staff, what we want and we were close together. We were like family.”
“The fans helped us too much this year,” Anbari said. “They stayed behind us, even when we drew, even when we lost against Al Wasl. With us that’s very important.
“Next season will be very hard, with the Asian Champions League. For Sharjah to stay at the top is not easy. We want even more hard work next year; we need some local players. I hope we will find good local players to help. I know it will not be easy, but we will try our best.”
Sharjah won the league with one round to spare, remaining unbeaten through their first 23 matches. Coronado was a standout, scoring 17 goals and assisting another nine.
Captain for the night in place of the suspended Abdulrahman, the Brazilian scored twice in Wednesday’s 3-2 victory against Al Wahda to secure the championship. Welliton, his compatriot, got the other to increase his tally for the season to 19 goals.
Sharjah completed their coronation as 2018-19 Arabian Gulf League champions with a 2-1 victory at Emirates club in Ras Al Khaimah on Saturday.
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